June 25, 2019

There’s a party going on deep in the heart of Texas.

Texas Monthly is the latest in a series of newsrooms to be scooped up and bolstered by the deep and patient pockets of legacy media-loving billionaires.

Randa Duncan Williams, heiress of an oil and gas fortune and a native Texan, chairs the holding company that announced today its purchase of “The National Magazine of Texas.” It was previously owned by Genesis Park, a private equity firm also in Houston.

Details of the transaction weren’t made public.

Williams was quoted in a release as saying, “My family is delighted to provide the resources to support this iconic Texas institution which is nationally recognized for its editorial flair.”

Forbes lists Williams at the 290th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $6.4 billion.

Based in the Texas capital of Austin, Texas Monthly began publishing in 1973 under the leadership of Mike Levy, who sold it in 1998 to Indianapolis-based Ennis Communications. Genesis Park, a private equity company led by Houstonian Paul Hobby, bought Texas Monthly for $25 million in 2016, presumably to groom the magazine and sell it. Texas Monthly has won 13 National Magazine Awards, and editors have included William Broyles Jr., later a successful screenwriter, and Evan Smith, co-founder of The Texas Tribune. According to its website, it has a paid circulation of 300,000 and is read monthly by 2.1 million people, or one out of 10 Texas adults.

The handoff of ownership becomes official June 30.

Williams is now in the company of other wealthy citizens who boast legacy media crown jewels in their holdings, including:

  • Jeff Bezos, The Washington Post
  • John William Henry II, The Boston Globe 
  • Laurene Powell Jobs, the Atlantic
  • Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the Los Angeles Times
  • Marc and Lynne Benioff, TIME magazine

The sale is the latest in a line of transactions in which a wealthy citizen swoops in to snatch up a venerate — and often faltering — brand. But leaders at Texas Monthly said their most recent ownership set them up for success and made the purchase attractive for Williams. 

Editor-in-chief Dan Goodgame said the mood around the office is light, and he’s spent the day responding to well-wishers via email and text. While the privately held magazine doesn’t publicly discuss its finances, Goodgame said the last few quarters were spent “taking this great storytelling brand and extending it from print, which is still very important to us … but we want to take that same storytelling out to the newer platforms where audience is growing, and where revenue is growing, and where Texans want to get their storytelling these days.”

Goodgame said he’s proud of Texas Monthly’s recent growth across platforms that extends to live events, podcasts and beyond. He said he is confident that Williams understands journalistic principles of editorial freedom, and is committed long-term.

“We’ve got somebody who understands that what’s required here is patient capital,” Goodgame said, “ … someone who’s not looking at this as the best risk-adjusted ROI on their next dollar. They’re not looking at it that way. They’re looking at it the way you look at something you love and that you want to build and that you’re going to be patient with.”

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Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Poynter.org. She spent two decades in…
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